At the beginning of the month Jeremy Hunt, secreatry of health and social care paid a suprise visit to Sussex Partnership at a meeting on patient safety. Staff attending the meeting were not told that Jeremy Hunt was visiting until they were in the meeting. Naturally many were rather upset. After a number of complaints from members and discussion at our most recent branch meeting the following statement was sent to the trust's chief executive by branch secretary Nick McMaster.
"On behalf of my members and the branch committee of UNISON Sussex Partnership Branch I am writing to express the concern that many had over the recent visit of Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care to Sussex Partnership on Thursday 1st February 2018. The following statement was passed at our recent branch committee meeting:
UNISON Sussex Partnership staff spoke of feeling extremely upset and angry at being asked to attend a meeting on patient safety last week at Mill View Hospital, only to be “hoodwinked” by the last minute announcement of a visit by secretary of state for health and social care Jeremy Hunt.
This event left many staff feeling completely flabbergasted. Some spoke of being told to attend, meaning patient appointments and clinics were cancelled.
Whilst the meeting welcomed the contribution of Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director, it was with mixed feelings to be presented to one of the most politically divisive secretary of states for health in a generation; one who has managed to upset, outrage and ignore nearly every professional body and union in the NHS, and has galvanised large swathes of the British public into taking action to defend this vital public service.
We accept that in the meeting Mr Hunt appeared to have an interest and passion for patient safety, but all too clearly our staff members are aware of the impact his government’s policies have had on the NHS, which under his watch has been run into the ground, despite the best efforts of those managing and running services.
For example, let us not forget the Bristol teenager Becky Romero who died on July 19th last year shortly after contacting the Child Line charity. The Avon Coroner recently ruled that a lack of NHS resources saw a “gross failure to provide basic medical attention” and “contributed to her death by neglect.” The lack of beds in Bristol forced Becky to go 80 miles to Pebble Lodge in Bournemouth. Riverside—Bristol’s only adolescent mental health unit—had just nine beds. “I think it’s ridiculous that a city of this size only has that many,” said Becky’s mum Nicky, who supported February’s march and protest in London by health campaigners calling for an end to underfunding. Becky’s death took place in the context of Tory cuts to the NHS that have decimated mental health and social care services.
In health we have what are called ‘never events’. On behalf of our members and other concerned staff, UNISON calls on the Trust to never use subterfuge or orders again to get staff to such a meeting. Whilst we appreciate that you were most likely asked to keep this visit a secret, you should have found a different way of accommodating it. We can only assume that Mr Hunt’s team were trying to avoid protest or negative publicity. As a controversial, high profile elected representative, he should not try and circumvent protest if he wants to meet NHS staff. Our view is that you should have given him the option of either meeting staff who would be informed beforehand and given the choice of attending, or just arranging a meeting with senior management or the executive team.
The actual actions taken instead to our members have embroiled the Trust in unnecessary political manoeuvring, which is a shame when the backdrop was our great collective achievement in gaining a good rating from the CQC."